Interview With Ziarekenya Smith
Describe your product or service:
“Inpathy is a new era of social media that inspires transparency, normalizes moods, and recreates the human experience.”
Describe your company values and mission:
“Inpathy vision was to recreate the human experience on social media. Why? Because modern social media has become more and more about sharing just the good times. We believe social media should capture the peaks and valleys of life because that’s what makes us human. That’s when Inpathy was born.
We wanted to create a new era of social media that inspires transparency, normalizes moods, and of course, recreate the human experience. Our goal was to create a balanced, enjoyable, and human-centered social media where you can express yourself and be yourself.”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“We are currently are in the middle of crowdfunding via Linktree.”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
"My name is Ziarekenya Smith. I'm 30, from Detroit, MI, and operate as a solo founder who hires freelancers on the side for assistance here and there.
Prior to Inpathy, I was the co-founder of Vame, the world's first social media app that empowers its user's creativity by allowing them to turn their content into quick cash.
Before I got into entrepreneurship, I freelanced for well-established companies around the world like Nike, Jordan Brand, Tencent 腾讯, Bleacher Report, Team Lebron, Limitless Creative Co, as well as startups and more. You can check out my work here.
I won 6 Adobe Design Achievement Awards from (2011-2014) in 4 different categories: Web and Application Design, Print Communication, Live-Action, and Illustration. My work has been featured on recognizable media platforms such as Slam Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Mayweather Promotions, Complex, Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report, HYPEBEAST, Finish Line, Full Sail University's Publication, Adobe, and the list goes on!
I hold a bachelor's degree in Digital Art & Design and graduated as an Advance Achiever at Full Sail University."
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“Well, it wasn't the usual route for sure, haha. I never really had a set idea on a startup idea, for starters. All I knew at the time was I enjoyed freelancing as a digital artist and working for myself. So I saw myself doing that for the rest of my life. But what I didn't see is myself creating for companies all my life. So back in 2014, when I graduated as an Advanced Achiever from Full Sail University, "The Harvard of creative schools" with a Bachelor's Degree in Digital Art & Designs. During my four-year tenure at Full Sail, I succeeded in my degree, allowing me to experience a more significant deal of success than my peers.
Like any field or degree you excel at; you eventually come to a crossroads, where you ask yourself do I want to continue this for the next 5-10 years of my life, or do I want to try something new? I realized the success and the money that came with it were no longer feeding me. I always needed to wake up every day knowing why I was here. Why? Because the two most significant moments in your life are when you are born and when you realize why you are born.
That's when the quest begins searching for my purpose on this blue dot and figuring out how I can make a living off of it. During every journey, you hit a low point in life. You know the human experience. My low point happened when my family started to doubt me, questioning my decision-making and ultimately giving up on me because they couldn't understand why I was giving up a flourishing career. They couldn't understand I was looking for fulfillment in the work I produce. I wanted my work to mean something, not just keep making companies like Nike, Jordan Brand, Tecent 腾讯, and other Fortune 500 companies wealthy.
But their lack of understanding causes me to have anxiety, doubts, and a moment of depression. It was hard for me to comprehend how people can see you succeed, and once you hit a wall, they give up on you. I wanted to express this on social media to see if anyone else experienced what I did. But I stop myself because modern social media warp my mind into believing if your life is not perfect or it isn't good vibes, don't post it. And I didn't. But I quickly ask myself, why?
Because life is a series of peaks and valleys, that's what makes us human. Study shows that social media significantly affects people's wellness amongst Millennials and Gen Z. So, I knew things needed to change because social media isn't going anywhere in the future. It will always be some form of social media. So I figure why not create a better version of it, where it's transparent, balanced, enjoyable, and focused on the real human experience.
That's when Inpathy was born."
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“My first startup name was called ‘Feelings’ because when I came up with the vision Inpathy, I was in my feelings, haha. So I wanted the name to embody human emotions. Then, mins later, I thought empathy would be better-suited because that's what the platform will be about. So I made the last change to my startup name and called it Inpathy.
The ‘In’ stands for intuition intelligence because we believe that will be the future for Inpathy to serve people's well-being better. The ‘pathy’ stands for empathy because that's what the platform will ultimately be about. Those were the only names in my intuition, nothing more, nothing less.”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Yes, I was always an entrepreneur since I was a kid when I used to do design work for friends and people. Fun fact I never held an actual job; I always worked for myself as a freelancer, haha. So, you can say entrepreneur was always in my spirit and the only thing I knew.
I never really had any aspiration to create a startup; I was a creator who did visual work. So all I ever wanted was to build my own creative studio. But God had a bigger plan for me, haha. So now, I am on the route to changing how we view and use social media. Who would have thought?”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“The giant roadblock for me was coming from a creative background entering Tech. Transitioning my skillset to building a mobile app and fully functional prototype for a mobile app was a three- to four-year challenge. However, I solved it by A-B testing and interactions based on people's feedback.
People pointed out issues with the design and brought up concerns with the user experience. It took six years total to iron out everything about Inpathy. We haven't even launched yet. Some may call it crazy and say, "You should test the idea on the market first." But I was so sure of Inpathy vision and believing if we nail the concept down based on our feedback, it will do wonders in the world.
Our most formidable challenge is bootstrapping Inpathy because we are currently self-funding Inpathy through crowdfunding. We chose this route instead of the investor route because of the fear of Inpathy becoming another TikTok, Instagram, etc., to please investors is why we didn't go down that route. We are open to investors only if they are on board with Inpathy's long-term vision to serve people's well-being better.
We are currently solving that problem through guerilla marketing on the interwebs, getting people's attention!”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Our target market is millennials and Gen Z, who use social media to communicate in the virtual world. We establish this as the right market because modern social media helps connect and disconnect young adults.
Alice G Waston from Forbes said, ‘American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that people who use social media more also report feeling more socially isolated.’
Leslie Katz from CNET said, ‘Studies have found social media can lead to feelings of isolation as people compare their lives with everyone else's carefully curated versions.’
We aim to solve that problem by recreating the real human experience on social networks.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“Brand awareness to raise awareness of our company gain supporters to help raise funds for our crowdfunding campaign.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“Marketing, baby! Good ol’ brand marketing! That's how Inpathy is making its mark on the interweb.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
"We can only go by people signing up for Inpathy since the App hasn't launched yet. We announced Inpathy on May 7, 2021; we gained over 1000 people signed up for Inpathy.
We consider it pretty well since we didn't have any paid advertisement or PR firms to help. However, Inpathy picked up its growth organically; media press outlets like Forbes, TechCrunch, Yahoo, FOX, Detroit Free Press, ABC and 20+ media outlets pick up our story for free, which we consider a blessing."
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“Favorite book: Book of Proverbs in the Bible. (Not a startup book, but it can get you to start on your life goals.)
Podcast: Brilliant Idiots”
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“Motivational Speaker: Les Brown
Song: Zero To Hero By Lillias White, Cheryl Freeman, LaChanze, Roz Ryan, Vaneese Thomas & Tawatha Agee"
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“Adobe Suite and Sketch”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
"Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and trust in something bigger than yourself. For me, it's God (Jesus Christ, my Lord, and Savior) because one day, friends, family, and loved ones will one day disappoint you on your journey, and it's okay; human beings are like that. That's what makes us perfectly imperfect. It doesn't make it right, but it does make us human."
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
"I am still working on that, but I am in a relationship with my girlfriend, Kathryn Young. So she helps me out with that more than she would ever know. I feel like it's a blessing if you are a founder your partner understands and supports your journey. It's a balance you didn't know you needed, but you are highly grateful that you have it. (If you are reading this, Kathryn, don't say I never gave you your credit, haha.)"
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“I focus on my ‘Why’ and remember why I set off on this journey in the first place.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Trusting in God believing in his word more specifically, this Bible verse ‘Luke 1:37 - For with God nothing shall be impossible.’ That Bible verse keeps me fearless in bold to believe I can change the world and how we use social media.”
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